Questions/Comments? We're here to help: (866) 267-4638



The townsite of Garden City was resurveyed by the Garden City Town Company, and the streets made to run at right angles to the Santa Fe Railroad tracks. The engineer completed the survey in April, 1879, and also put down side tracks that month. The frame for a station house was loaded on cars at Topeka and shipped to Garden City. Carpenters came to finish the building, and by May 1, 1879, as good and substantial a depot as any on the road was completed. It was nicely painted and set up on posts about two feet above the ground. It had a front platform twelve feet wide and eighty feet long, and a platform eight feet wide on the other three sides. C. J. Jones was installed as the first station agent. He had his office well arranged and seemed to understand the business. Tom Daly who had been at Pierceville, was transferred to Garden City to take charge of the telegraph office. The first telegraph message was sent from the Garden City station May 25, 1879, by C. S. Merrill, and read:

"Office O.K. at Garden City."

Only one tree was planted in Garden City in 1878, and that was in front of the hotel. Mrs. W. D. Fulton gave it four buckets of water a day to keep it growing, two in the morning and two in the evening. But about the first of April, 1879, C. J. Jones shipped a carload of trees from Sterling, Kansas, and donated them to the town to decorate the streets. The remark was made at that time, "if the desert does not bloom like the rose it will not be the fault of C. J. Jones". These were all cottonwood, but they were nice trees. They planted them all up and down Main Street, and on the side streets. Only a few of these trees survived the drouth of 1879.

The first marriage among the settlers at Garden City was that of John A. Stevens, age 29, and Sadie A. Fulton, age 18. The license was issued by N. B. Klaine, probate judge of Ford county, on February 10, 1879, and they were married by Reverend O. W. Wright, of Dodge City, pastor of the Presbyterian church, same date. The second wedding was that of Emanuel Schnars, age 32, and Belle Turner, age 18. They were married May 5, 1879, by R. G. Cook, justice of peace, at Dodge City. M. G. Smith and Miss Emma Carlton were married August 5, 1879, at the home of W. R. Stapleton. This was the first wedding to actually occur in Garden City.

The first child born in Garden City was Code Wilkinson, the daughter of Levi and Virginia Wilkinson. She was born December 1, 1879. She is now Mrs. H. B. Holcomb, of Long Beach, California.

In the spring of 1879 people began coming in to locate in Garden City and on surrounding homesteads. Prominent among them were the families of Isaac Hurst, J. M. Day, Eli Keyser, Richard D. Stuver, Nathan B. Adams, Levi Wilkinson, H. W. Crow, the Craigs, Roll Hopper, and a number of others came later in the summer. On one of his trips in April, C. J. Jones met Frederick Finnup, who had come to Kansas from Vevay, Indiana, to look for a location. He was persuaded by Mr. Jones to come on to Garden City. Mr. Finnup was at once convinced with the future growth and development of the town and country and decided to stay. He bought the first lot from the Garden City Town Company, and was issued deed No. 1, April 22, 1879. He began at once the erection of a full two-story building, the ground floor to be used as a store room, and the rooms above as a place for his family to live.

The gaining of Frederick Finnup as a citizen of the new town was of second importance to securing the railroad, because his ambitions were backed by means, which the others lacked. He began at once a building campaign which continued steadily, but in a conservative way, and added greatly to the building up of Garden City. He was ready to boost every worthy cause, and helped the settlers to stay after the droughts had made them destitute. He occupied comparatively the position of banker, and seldom turned any away who came to him for a reasonable loan. He had faith in his fellow citizens, and they in turn had respect for his good judgment. A man who has lived here many years remarked that he drew at various times from Mr. Finnup money to the amount of 14,000 and offered to give security for the amount. But Mr. Finnup knew that the man's word was as good as his note, and in a short time he received every cent of the loan. As soon as Mr. Finnup completed his first building, Mrs. Finnup and their three children, George W., Edward G., and Sallie M., came to Garden City. The sun was just coming up when they got off the train, and as she stood on the depot platform looking at the few scattered buildings, and the country so barren of trees and vegetation, she was terribly disappointed. "Oh, Fred," she exclaimed, "Why did you bring me to such a place?" The children romped and played and the life in a new country held many thrills for them, but Mrs. Finnup, in spite of her determination to do her part in this frontier settlement, would cry day after day, while the hot winds almost rocked her rooms above the store, as she thought of her old home, with its trees and flowers.

Lumber arrived April 1, 1879, for the Landis and Hollinger Lumber Yard, and for the erection of their two-story building. They put in a large stock of goods in the store room, with Levi Wilkinson as manager. The hall above the store was used for school and church, and all community activities for the next three years. W. H. Armentrout was manager of the lumber yard.

The first issue of "The Garden City Newspaper" appeared April 3, 1879, and for genuine truthfulness and earnest co-operation for the interests of Garden City, it has never been excelled. Three months after the paper was established, the editor states, "there are now forty buildings in town." The list of advertisers were as follows:

  • Garden City Hotel, Wm. D. Fulton, prop.
  • N. F. Weeks, Blacksmith & Wagon Shop
  • Fulton & Stevens, Livery & Feed
  • N. R. Gardner, attorney at law
  • Charles Perrell, plasterer
  • Wm. Groendyke, Lumber
  • D. R. Menke, Groceries, Boots & Shoes
  • J. W. Weeks, Land Agent, Notary Public, Surveyor
  • M. G. Smith, Painter
  • Fulton & Stevens, Hardware, Lumber, Flour & Feed
  • G. D. McConnell & Company, Architects & Builders
  • Williams & North, Contractors and Builders W. B.
  • Wheeler, Jeweler
  • Central House, L. T. Walker, prop.
  • J. D. Duncan, Harness
  • Landis & Hollinger, General Store, Lumber & Implements
  • Rock & Adams, Butchers
  • George Koons, Grocery
  • A. T. Levy, Livery
  • Lou C. Reed, Concrete Factory
  • R. N. Hall, Doctor
  • N. M. Carter, Groceries, Grain & Vegetables
  • Pennsylvania House, J. B. Hayward, prop.
  • Frederick Finnup, Lumber & General Merchandise
  • Jacobs & English, Druggists


Prairie fires were terrible in 1879. The year before had been wet and a dense growth of buffalo grass covered the whole country, while on the fertile bottom lands was a grass that grew shoulder high, but this grass was brown and dead by the spring of 1879, and there were no spring rains to start it to growing. Many fires were accidently started, usually from the fires of campers. Once started, they would soon be beyond control and sweep rapidly across the prairie, the fiery tongues of flame lapping up everything in their course, and night after night the sky would be lighted by a red glare.

Adjutant General P. 5. Noble was in Garden City May 22, 1879, and organized a militia company. James R. Fulton was elected captain, and J. W. Weeks lieutenant. The company had seventy-five members, nearly all of whom were frontiersmen, with considerable experience on the plains. They were all supplied with Sharp's rifles and no doubt would have given the Indians a warm reception should they have appeared with their little "tomahawks". This organization was called the Seventh Independent Militia-Cavalry Company.

On the evening of June 28, 1879, Garden City was visited by the hardest rain storm it had yet experienced. About 4 o'clock large, black clouds began to gather in the northwest and travelled southeast at a rapid rate, al- though the wind was squarely against them. In a few minutes the wind shifted to the northwest, and immediately the storm struck. The rain fell in torrents, flooding the streets, and it was accompanied by considerable wind. The first thing the wind took hold of was W. B. Wheeler's new building, wrestled with it a moment and then set it out in the middle of the street, right side up with care. It next tackled M. G. Smith's building and took a part of the roof off; after this it visited the lumber yards and scattered lumber promiscuously between the town and the Arkansas river. An old lady in attempting to go from one house to another, was blown a considerable distance, but was finally rescued and carried into the Pennsylvania House. The rain wet the ground to a depth of about eighteen inches.

This was the first and last rain that summer. It started the grass, but the crops were very poor. The settlers became very discouraged and some left. In order to hold them the first irrigation ditch was dug from a point on the river west of town and ran through the town. People discovered they could grow most anything by irrigating and those who remained were content. But business was pretty slow and the town did not grow any, although a few new people came in to take the place of those who left.

Dan Larmor came to Garden City in the summer of 1880, and the following November he married Miss Mary Frances Simon, whose parents lived on the land just east of Garden City. Mr. and Mrs. Larmor have lived here since that time, and on November 10, 1930, they celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. They hold this record over any other Garden City couple. The Larmor land was south of the river. They owned a mule and a horse and these were their only means of travel. Mrs. Larmor thought no more of swimming her mule across the river at flood time with a baby in her arms, and a sack of groceries tied on behind than she would now in driving an automobile across the bridge. Since those first years Mr. Larmor has developed some fine farms, and is still a Garden City booster.

B. L. Stotts arrived in Garden City in 1880, and since that time the Stotts family has always been numbered among the most substantial citizens of the town. Mrs. Stotts and their children, Eugene, Ethel and Raymond, did not come until May 2, 1881. Mr. Stotts was on hand to welcome them at the train, but his wife was not favorably impressed when she looked over the town. The next day Mr. Stotts took her for a drive into the country to show her the J. W. Gregory farm west of Garden City. It was well improved and he thought it might make her like the country better. But in speaking of that ride, Mrs. Stotts admitted recently:

"When Mr. Stotts took me out to see the Gregory place I wore a heavy brown veil, and all the time he was telling me what a fine country this would be, the tears were falling, unnoticed by him, beneath the veil. He also promised to give me a piano, and he did so a short time after. This was a Hale piano, and the first in Garden City."

Mr. Stotts was leading the family milk cow down Main Street one morning soon after they had arrived in Garden City, when he noticed two men coming toward him. The one in the lead was H. M. deCordova, but he was walking backward. The other man was N. J. Earp and he was following close with a drawn gun in his hand. Gonzalvo, the ten-year old son of deCordova, was playing in the street, and his black Spanish eyes snapped when he saw what was happening to his father. He ran full speed to their home. Just as the two men reached Mr. Stotts, the boy returned. He slipped up behind his father and put a gun in his hand. "Dad, here is your gun," he whispered. The situation changed instantly. N. J. Earp, the town constable, did some rapid manoeuvering, and soon had Stotts and the cow between him and Mr. deCordova, and continued to use them for a breast cover as he backed away to a safe distance.

A. H. Burtis came to Garden City March 13, 1881, for an antelope hunt with his friend, C. J. Jones. The Burtis and the Jones families had been neighbors in Illinois. Mr. Burtis thought he had arrived at the end of the world when he alighted at the Santa Fe station, but within a few days he was overtaken by the "spirit of the West", and decided that Western Kansas was the place he was going to make his home, and he has claimed this as his residence since that time. He has always taken an active part in the unbuilding of Garden City and community, and has held several public positions, including that of mayor for several years.

Mr. Burtis was married to Ella E. Worrell, daughter of Squire Worrell. To this union was born one daughter, who is now Mrs. Gertrude Cone. Mrs. Burtis died when Gertrude was eight days old.

In 1891 he was united in marriage to Miss Sadie Mack of Garden City, and their children are Preston Arthur of Garden City, Aurel and Maxine, of Chicago, and Aleyn Henry of New York. After fifty years residence in Garden City, Mr. Burtis feels he made no mistake in coming to the frontier in an early day, and staying here after he came. His experiences in life have been many and interesting.

Mr. and Mrs. 0. V. Folsom heard of the great opportunities awaiting people in Sequoyah county, so they sold their comfortable home near Osage City, Kansas, and with a few others came here to establish a new home early in 1882. Mrs. Folsom is still living, and recalls those first years:

"Before we could irrigate and we were living on our dry land, nothing growing, no near neighbors, we frequently had calls from the land agents showing their prospective buyers our beautiful country. One gentleman I remember with interest was from Michigan, and I will never forget the look of pity he gave me as he asked me:

`Mrs. Folsom, why did you ever come here?' I did not have the courage to tell him we came because we heard it was such a grand place to grow onions.

"I will never forget the sensation I received when the water from the ditch came with such force through the flood gates and watered our parched land. I have since seen both Niagara and Trenton Falls of New York, and I believe with no more feeling of pleasure and awe than when I watched the water as it poured from the flood gates at the northwest corner of our farm. Mr. Folsom was the first, I believe, to raise a crop of alfalfa in that part of the country twelve miles northwest of Garden City. From the proceeds of the first load he sold he presented me with a gold watch which he purchased from Charley Dickinson, and it is still highly treasured by me."

J. T. Pearce came to Garden City in 1882 and engaged in the sprouting and cultivation of sweet potatoes. In this business he was very successful, and because of fair dealing with his fellowmen, he was an esteemed citizen. For a long time he was a member of the city council, and was later elected justice of the peace. He was a devoted member of the Grand Army of the Republic and a licensed preacher of the Methodist church. Mr. Pearce reared his family in Garden City, and each member has been prominent in everything that has been for the betterment of the town.

Whiskey, dance houses, prize fights and plots of ground to "bury them with their boots on", have not been necessary to the success of Garden City. Her claim to prosperity and greatness has been brought about by good moral sense, wisdom and virtue of a sober, contented people; backed by agricultural conditions that are among the best in the state. But in the life of a town, as in the life of a person, things happen that are to be regretted. As time went on, Garden City, like every community, has had shootings, robberies and even murders.

The first death resulting from a shooting affair occurred here on Easter Sunday, in April, 1882. The following account was gathered from talking to P. C. Pegan, A. H. Burtis, and others who were living here at that time, and this is the way it happened:

In the early eighties, the Santa Fe had what they called "emigrant cars". These were old passenger coaches attached to freight trains. It was a slow way to travel, but the fare was very low, and the people could sleep, cook and eat in the cars.

Many of these passengers were honest, hard working people, going to new locations to build homes, or to find work. But there was always a rough element, taking advantage of this low rate to travel over the country, just to have a good time, and out looking for adventures in the "wild west". This latter class considered it great sport to look and act like "regular two-gun men" whose country they imagined they were invading. They carried firearms and used them pretty reckless, partly for devilment, shooting out of the car windows at rabbits, coyotes, antelope and birds, but some of them went farther and would see how close they would come to cattle, and even people travelling along the road, without quite hitting them. Sometimes when several were travelling together they would slip out when the train stopped at a station and make a raid on a store. For this reason, Levi Wilkinson, manager of the Landis and Hollinger store, was always on guard against these emigrant ruffians. Capt. J. R. Fulton was assisting in the store, and he always kept his Winchester loaded, ready for use when the emigrant train was due.

In April, 1882, Robert Cartney, a young Scotchman from Pleasant Valley, Pa., was a passenger on the western bound emigrant train. He was on his way to Arizona to get the body of his father, who had been killed by a cave-in while working in the copper mines. The undertaker at Pleasant Valley, who was an old friend of the Cartney family, and expected to take charge of the father's body upon its arrival at the home town, accompanied Robert to the train. He noticed that the young man was armed, and he cautioned him:

"Bobby, I lived in Leadville, Colorado, for a few years, and let me tell you something. You are going into a country where, if you take out a gun, you've got to use it. You are a hot-headed young scamp, and you better just leave those guns with me." But Bobby took the guns.

It was about noon on Easter Sunday when his train reached Garden City. Times were extremely dull here and there was no money in the country. There were several ambitious boys and girls from the best families in Garden City who desired to make a little money, and they had a habit of meeting these trains with baskets containing coffee, milk, pies, boiled eggs, etc., which they sold to the emigrants.

On this Sunday George Finnup, Eugene Stotts and Willie Jones, son of C. J., all about fifteen years of age, and some young girls, were on hand to meet the train with their baskets of food. There was a good crowd and by the time the train was ready to leave, they had about sold out, but Robert Cartney had got off the train and was scuffling with the boys, trying to get their baskets. He grabbed a pan of something belonging to George Finnup, and started for the train which was slowly moving out, and had reached the rear platform, when George picked up a hard-boiled egg and threw it after him. The egg missed its mark and struck a car wheel, but Cartney leaped to the ground and a race started. George reached Main Street about the time the train was on the west side of the present freight depot, but Cartney was a well-built athlete, and soon overtook him, and started shaking and kicking him.

Pliney C. Pegan, who operated the Metropolitan Hotel, had been watching the fracas, ran out and took hold of Cartney, saying:

"Here, fellow, we don't allow that kind of business here." He tried to hold him, but Cartney was strong, and swung around, and got loose. He started back toward the train which was still moving west, but as he ran, he began shooting back, firing three shots at Pegan, who was following. But they all missed, although the two men were not more than ten or fifteen feet apart. At this time a friend of Cartney's began shooting at Pegan from the rear platform of the train, and Pegan started for the depot to get a gun from B. B. Black, who was agent.

By this time the whole crowd was excited. Squire Worrell had just driven into town, and was standing on the opposite side of the street. He had in his pocket a new 38 Colt's revolver, which belonged to A. H. Burtis, who had just received the gun as a gift from Major Falls of the XY ranch. H. M. deCordova, a cattleman who had spent his life in the west and knew no fear, stepped up to Worrell, knowing he usually carried a gun, and said excitedly, "Give me your gun, Squire". Just as he took the gun, Cartney raised his arm to shoot again, but deCordova fired first and it struck Cartney under his uplifted arm, wounding him fatally. He was taken down to the depot and laid on the plank platform. An old French doctor, by the name of Ballou was over him examining his wound when Cartney asked:

"How am I getting along, Doc?"
"You are getting along pretty fast; you'll be in hell in about fifteen minutes," the doctor answered. And in a little while the man was dead.


While all this was taking place the passengers on the train had set the brakes and stopped the train, and a number of men got off in a rage, vowing they would burn the whole damn town, and their guns and rifles glistened in the noonday sun, as they started down the track. The townspeople scattered, and directly the barrels of Winchesters and carbines were protruding from doorways and around corners. These had been furnished to the town by the state to be used in case of Indian raids, and were kept stored in a blacksmith shop. It looked like a civil war was imminent. N. C. Jones fired some shots over the heads of the passengers to let them know they had opposition. This apparently calmed the emigrants, for they turned and went back to the train, and it im- mediately pulled out.

Mrs. B. L. Stotts lived near the depot and heard the shooting, and went out to see what it was all about. She was told there had been some trouble between the boys who were selling food and the emigrants. At once she was concerned about the safety of her son, Gene, who had stepped out so business like with his basket of homemade goodies to sell to the emigrants, and she ran down the street crying and calling, "Genie! Genie!!" The train was on its way and the guns of the citizens had all disappeared when Gene, who had taken refuge under the depot, which was built up on posts, came crawling out, dragging his empty basket, and yelled out, "Aw, here I am, mother."

An inquest was held over Robert Cartney, and he was buried that evening. Mr. deCordova was cleared of any charges, the law holding that the shooting was justifiable, as it was done in self defense.

The saddest part of the incident happened when Cartney's mother, in company with the undertaker who had warned him, came to Garden City for the body. She asked to see Mr. deCordova and George Finnup, and they met her in front of Landis and Hollinger store. She was dressed in black and looked very sad when she spoke to deCordova:

"You are the man who killed Bobby," she sobbed.

He was touched deeply with regret when he saw how great was her sorrow and he answered her earnestly, "I am very sorry that I did it." Mr. deCordova lived for many years after that at Cripple Creek, Colorado, and was a highly respected citizen, but he often told his friends that he would always regret his part in the Cartney affair.

Continue

Note: Text taken from "Conquest of Southwest Kansas" by Leola Howard Blanchard, which can be ordered through the Finney County Historical Museum.

Garden City & Finney County History Home Page

Back to Top